Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gas discovery gives Romania prospect of full energy independence 

Romanian president Traian Basescu stated that his country could become energetically-independent and could even start exporting gas to other countries in Europe, in the next few years.

An offshore gas-drilling ship in the Romanian territory of the Black Sea found a gas field in the Neptun block of about one hundred billion cubic meters in late February 2012.

Preliminary estimates place newly-found natural gas deposit at 42 to 84 billion cubic meters, or three to six times the annual gas consumption in Romania.

“Romania has the potential of total energy independence. If the remaining five fields of the Neptune area that will be prospected indicate a similar amount, Romania could become a source of gas not only for itself but for other European countries, too,” Băsescu said, after visitng the Deepwater Champion drilling ship belonging to energy company ExxonMobil.

ExxonMobil and OMV unit Petrom were the ones that detected natural gas as they were drilling about 1,000 m deep in the Romanian part of the Black Sea. The Deepwater Champion ship has the capacity to drill as deep as 3,000 meters with an equipment described by Băsescu as “something out of the Star Trek movie”.

The exploitation of the newly-found gas resource will start around 2015, after more examinations, such as seismic data have been carried out. “From that moment on, probably, Romania will be fully energy-independent,” Băsescu said.

The Domino-1 well started drilling at the end of 2011 and it is the first deep-sea well installed in the Romanian perimeter of the Black Sea, in waters 930 m deep.

This first field of gas was discovered 170 km offshore, on a sea land that was fiercely disputed just three ago between Romania and Ukraine. In 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled that 70,34% of a 12,000 km² territory belonged to Romania, despite the Ukrainian parts' arguments that the nearest and biggest island in the area, Insula Şerpilor is not Romanian. This prompted energy companies Total, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and OMV to announce their intention to put up a bid for drilling in the sea area within days.

Petrom said it was too early in the evaluation and exploration process to determine whether the Neptun block will prove to be commercially viable or not.

“If subsequent operations will confirm the technical feasibility and the commercial gas production from the block Neptune, the cumulative value needed for investment in the exploration and development phases could be several billion U.S. dollars and the first production can be obtained in about 10 years at the earliest,” Mariana Gheorghe, executive chairman of Petrom said in a statement.

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